IBM, VMware Expand Cloud Backup Offerings

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IBM and VMware are expanding their respective cloud offerings with the launch of cloud-based data backup, recovery and business continuity services, increasing the crowded service segment with two major -- and potentially disruptive -- players.

Just when you thought the supply of cloud-based backup and disaster recovery services couldn’t get any bigger, IBM Corp. and VMware Inc. enter the fray. The two well-known enterprise and software companies launched cloud backup services, joining more than five dozen other vendors offering similar services to different segments of the market.

IBM is expanding its cloud computing services portfolio through its SoftLayer services division. The IBM offering is an extension of its Virtual Server Recovery Service. Through SoftLayer’s growing infrastructure capacity, IBM officials say the company can offer workload recovery in minutes for servers running Linux, Windows and AIX.

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While not new, the IBM backup service is part of an effort to expand the breadth and scope of cloud computing offerings. IBM is investing $1.2 billion to expand SoftLayer infrastructure around the world. The company foresees its value in applications and specific services, such as backup, tailored for the SoftLayer network. In time, IBM plans to consolidate in the SoftLayer fabric its other backup services, including Resiliency Consulting Services.

IBM is making cloud computing a major focus of its future strategic plans, seeing it as a replacement for declining and commoditized legacy products. In its quarterly earnings report, released yesterday, IBM noted $2.3 billion in cloud revenue. While that figure makes IBM one of the largest cloud computing vendors, the tally is but a fraction of the company's overall revenue streams, which are under increasing growth and profit pressure.

VMware, which is expanding from its core virtualization software products, this week launched vCloud Hybrid Service-Disaster Recovery, an extension of its VCloud Hybrid Service. As with IBM, the VMware offering is an extension of an existing service. The difference is automation and manageability. The existing service requires users to manually setup virtual recovery machines in the VMware cloud.

The VMware comes at a hefty price -- $835 per month -- but users can place as many virtual machines as possible in the vCloud Hybrid Service-Disaster Recovery cloud for data protection and management. Given the virtualized nature of the system, the VMware offering has greater utility and doesn’t require customization for running different operating systems.

IBM and VMware are not new players in the backup arena, but their consolidation, enhancement and expansion of cloud services is increasing the complexity of the crowded services segment. More than five dozen companies offer cloud backup services, and most operate through channel partners.

According to research by The 2112 Group, parent company of Channelnomics, 55 percent of solution providers offer cloud backup services, and an equal number say customers ask for cloud backup products and services by name. Solution providers believe cloud backup and data recovery services are among the cloud services that will retain their value, maintain price and boost profit productivity over the next two years.

While demand for cloud backup services remains high, no one company stands out as the market leader. SunGard Availability Services recently spun out from its parent company to become one of the largest cloud backup providers, with $1.4 billion in sales. Others -- including Axcient Inc., Datto Inc., Intronis Inc. and Acronis International -- continue to grow with their versions of cloud offerings. Many backup vendors are targeting Symantec Corp.’s legacy NetBackup and Backup Exec products for conversion to cloud services.

All this adds up to a cloud segment full of companies taking no chance in getting marginalized. While no market leader has emerged, each is racing to capitalize on the high demand and capture their share before the market reaches saturation.

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